Relic Traveller: Phase 1


© Photos by Sue Parkhill & Hydar Dewachi

Larry Achiampong's 'Relic Traveller: Phase 1' is a multi-disciplinary project manifesting in performance, audio, moving image and prose.

Taking place across various landscapes and locations, the project builds upon a postcolonial perspective informed by technology, agency and the body, and narratives of migration.

This speculative project considers the social and political climate of current times; the rise of nationalism within the global West and tensions surrounding moments such as the United Kingdom’s leave ‘Brexit’ vote in 2016. Meanwhile, the African Union’s passport programme (also established in 2016) points toward the potential opening of boarders across a unified African continent in the future. With these instances, the Relic Traveller series imagines a future in which the global West devolves the to point of decline, whilst the African Union ascends into prosperity, harmony, independence and, responsibility in shaping the future of the planet.

At this unspecified point in time amongst an ambitious set of new initiatives, the African Union create the ‘Relic Travellers’ Alliance’, a programme that equips Relic Travellers with space-travelling-technology for the sole purpose of venturing outside of the African Union to retrieve vocal information left by those whom had been historically oppressed as a result of political systems such as colonisation, capitalism and globalisation. These uncovered testimonies are collected and used as a basis for the African Union to responsibly govern the future informed by a bottom-up perspective.

PAN AFRICAN FLAG FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS' ALLIANCE (ASCENSION) explores themes related to Sanko-time and African diasporic identity. The design features 54 stars that represent the 54 countries of Africa, while the colours green, black and red reflect its land, its people and the struggles the continent has endured, respectively. The field of yellow gold represents a new day and prosperity. Achiampong has configured these Pan African colours and symbols into a form that is suggestive of a human figure in flight – an futuristic icon moving towards unity and equilibrium. The work does not frame Pan African Futurism as a utopian vision of the African continent, but considers aspects of responsibility in relation to the hidden tremors of history.

Relic 0, which is the prelude to the series, is a short film that moves between African and Western based vistas and focuses on specific architectures of colonialism as delivered by an anonymous narrator. These discoveries deliver poetic moments of the sublime met with increasingly harrowing tales of trauma - speaking to the sinister way that states of anxiety, fear and displacement are both generated and policed in postcolonial society. The throb of the electronic score and ringing clarity of the narrator's testimony usher in a new landscape and temporality, born from cracks in a traumatised, apocalyptic present.

In the short film Relic 1, one of the Relic Travellers is featured apparating sites across a seemingly desolate United Kingdom. Uncovering fragments of audible data presenting clue-like testimonies to a forgotten Empire, the Relic Traveller soon finds themselves in an atmosphere that simultaneously delivers poetic moments of the sublime met with increasingly harrowing claustrophobia and tales of trauma. Thus resulting in a familiar feeling of otherness, we are invited on a journey that embodies hysteria.

Voyage of the Relic Traveller is a performance by Larry Achiampong with Shiraz Bayjoo, the work simultaneously combines multi-channel visuals depicting historical, present and future colonial narratives accompanied by an intense, beat-driven live soundtrack of remixed audio and spoken word.

The Relic Traveller Phase 1 Soundtrack builds upon Larry Achiampong’s approach to sound whilst working with new methodologies; marrying linguistic threads and an evocative, original synth-based sounds to deliver a soundtrack that ties with the open cinematic landscapes depicted in his video works: 'Relic 0' and 'Relic 1'.

Relic Traveller: Phase 1 is a project made possible with support from Somerset House, PS/Y Southbank Centre | Hayward Gallery, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Eastside Projects, Workplace & Arts Council England.

© Larry Achiampong